Students branch out to expand school orchard

GREEN-FINGERED Ripon Grammar School students have proved themselves a force for nature with the planting of ten trees as part of a fruitful environmental project.

The new apple, plum and pear trees by the girls’ boarding house, along with some smaller fruiting hedgerow trees, add to the small apple orchard established by students last winter on the school’s 23-acre site.

RGS has also won funding for an even more ambitious tree planting endeavour this winter, when students will help create a 3,000-plant wildlife-friendly hedgerow around the school site.

Following a challenging year of lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions, it’s a project which is giving students the chance to reconnect with nature and each other while spending time in the outdoors in pursuit of a healthier environment.

Year 7 students Esther Bellaries, Georgiana Laycock, Adrian Wu, William Best and Sam Houghton have all been photographed next to the trees they have planted so they can measure themselves against them in future years as the trees grow.

History teacher David Bruce, who also supports the school’s student-led eco-committee, thanked the Tree Council’s Orchards for Schools charity, which offers free orchard and fruiting hedgerow packs to schools around the country.

As well as enjoying getting out into the fresh air to plant and care for trees, students benefit from being educated through nature, he said: “While we were planting, we discussed the science of grafting fruit trees and the biology of successful fruit tree management.

He said pupils were looking forward to being able to enjoy eating fresh fruit from the trees, in addition to using some of their crop in food technology lessons: “As well as providing fresh fruit and practical learning opportunities for pupils for many years into the future, the trees will enhance the biodiversity of the school site.

“And it's exciting to think that a race is now on to see whether the students or the trees will be tallest by the time they leave RGS in several years' time.”

Tree Council spokeswoman Sara Lom said: “We know young people are an inspirational force for nature. The Orchards for Schools programme allows young people to plant fruit-bearing, wildlife-enhancing, carbon-storing orchard or fruiting hedgerow, a lasting and leafy legacy for their school.

“In what has been a very challenging year, the project allows young people to re-connect to nature and each other, and to share what they have learnt about the amazing power of trees.”